War on Drugs

Connecticut Legislature Passes Bill To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Pending the governor's expected signature, Connecticut will become the 19th state—and the fifth this year—to legalize recreational weed.

|

The Connecticut Senate voted 16–11 today to legalize recreational marijuana, making the Constitution State the fifth this year to drop its war on weed.

Starting on July 1, Connecticut residents 21 and over will be allowed to purchase or possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, and to possess up to five ounces in their private residence, with a regulatory framework scheduled to be in place sometime in 2022. The bill will allow home growers to cultivate up to three mature plants and three immature plants. It also includes provisions to allow those in cities hit hardest by the drug war to apply for expedited licenses to sell marijuana.

The bill's criminal justice provisions include automatically expunging criminal convictions for possession of less than four ounces of marijuana and banning police from searching vehicles solely because of the odor of the drug.

In a press release issued shortly after the bill's passage, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont said he looks forward to signing it into law.

"It's fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war," Lamont said. "The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety."

Following Lamont's signature, the Constitution State will be the 19th state in the country, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize recreational marijuana. Neighboring New York legalized it in late March. New Jersey, New Mexico, and Virginia all legalized pot this year as well.

In Louisiana, which has traditionally had some of the harshest drug laws in the U.S., the legislature voted this week to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot.

The collapse of marijuana prohibition follows a long trend of rising public support for legalization. A Quinnipiac University poll released this April found 69 percent of Americans supporting marijuana legalization. (Nice.) That support cuts across political divisions: 78 percent of self-identified Democrats, 62 percent of self-identified Republicans, and 67 percent of self-identified independents favored the reform.

But the federal prohibition on marijuana remains, and President Joe Biden has shown little interest in changing that, despite campaigning on a criminal justice reform platform. In March, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a press conference today that Biden's opposition to legalizing marijuana hasn't changed, despite growing support for the idea among Democratic leadership in Congress.

"He spoke about this on the campaign," Psaki said. "He believes in decriminalizing the use of marijuana, but his position has not changed."

The Biden administration will only find itself in a lonelier position every day it continues to insist on a low-grade continuation of the drug war, rather than allowing adults the freedom to make their own choices.